celebrity

One word has reignited the reckoning between Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian.

Taylor Swift is TIME Magazine's Person of the Year.

For a year in entertainment defined by multiple celebrity divorces, scandals, and strikes this is no easy feat.

But it's also a title that is difficult to dispute. This year, Taylor Swift embarked on her record-busting Eras tour off the back of her new album Midnights, which became the highest-grossing concert of all time.

If people weren't scrambling to get their hands on her elusive tickets, they were hearing her hit songs from Midnights on the radio or streaming another record-breaking album re-release, this time with 1989 (Taylor's Version). 

Then there was Taylor's love life which consistently dominated the headlines. Starting with her split from Joe Alwyn in April after six years together, then the questionable romance with 1975 singer Matt Healy, and finally, Taylor met her match in NFL sweetie, Travis Kelce

In 2023, Taylor Swift was everything, anywhere, all at once.

But it wasn't too long ago that Taylor's reputation was tarnished by another super-famous woman and her controversial husband: Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. 

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West attend the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards. Image: Getty. 

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In 2016, Kim leaked a short recording on Snapchat that seemingly proved that Taylor had deceived the world into thinking she had not given consent to being name-dropped in Kanye's song 'Famous'. 

At the time, the world relished in Taylor's downfall: the pop star was inundated was snake emojis on her Instagram, as #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended on Twitter. 

Four years later, the full recording was released which cast doubts over whether Taylor actually lied. 

In the interview for TIME, Taylor addressed the 2016 incident. "Make no mistake — my career was taken away from me," she said. 

"You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar."

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This is the first time that Taylor has so pointedly shared her thoughts on what happened. To say that Kim Kardashian 'edited' the video is the one word that stands out. A word that has reignited the world's interest in this dispute between the two famous women.   

This, along with claiming it was a "manufactured frame job" are some real fighting words.

Then there was the emotional layer she added, as the 'Blank Space' singer shared the toll the saga had on her mental health. "That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore," she said. 

"I went down really, really hard."

The response from Swift's fans has been well, swift. 

In the aftermath of the interview, Kim's Instagram has been flooded with Taylor GIFs, urges for the SKIMS founder to apologise to Taylor, and the comments are dominated by (you guessed it) snake emojis. 

Kim Kardashian is bombarded with negative comments on Instagram.

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Kardashian hasn't responded to the singer's latest statements. 

Whether Taylor or Kim lied is something that's likely to be debated for decades to come. 

Given Taylor's powerful new interview, we decided to re-examine the details of what really transpired in 2016.

Firstly, it's worth setting the mood because as a year, 2016 was a weird one. 

Kim Kardashian was riding high in the collective consciousness. She had shirked her reputation as a talentless, fame-chaser and was starting to solidify her status as a fashion icon. 

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And with Kanye West by her side, the two were an American dream. This was several years before Kim would file for divorce and Kanye's career would come crashing down over his anti-Semitism. 

Taylor, on the other hand, was primed for cancellation. 

Oddly enough, Taylor was in a similar situation that she's found herself in 2023. 

Taylor was everything, anywhere, all at once. 

She had spent the past two years on a sold-out tour for her most successful album to date, 1989

She had just broken up with her boyfriend of 15-months Calvin Harris and rebounded with a very public and curious dalliance with Hollywood heartthrob and Marvel villain, Tom Hiddleston. 

But the public tide of opinion was turning. 

Taylor's habit of surrounding herself with a squad of white, thin, beautiful women, such as supermodels Gigi Hadid and Karlie Kloss, and packaging it as female empowerment was growing tired.

Taylor Swift wins at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards. Image: Getty. 

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And then there was her complete silence over Donald Trump who won the US election in 2016. Given Taylor's sizeable influence, critics wondered why she didn't lend her voice to Hilary Clinton's campaign for presidency. 

For what it's worth, Kim Kardashian publically endorsed Clinton for president.

This combined with Taylor being placed on a pedestal so high that a sharp downfall felt inevitable, Kim's release of the tapes was timed perfectly for a delicious hit of schadenfreude.

It all began with a line in Kanye's song, which said "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that bitch famous." The rapper previewed the song at a Yeezy Show in February 2016. 

Obviously, Taylor was already a best-selling and critically acclaimed recording artist before Kanye interrupted her VMAs speech in 2009, and the furious response from her fans came quickly.

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At the time, Kanye tweeted that he had gotten permission from Swift to mention her in his song. 

Taylor Swift then took aim at Kanye in her Grammy Awards acceptance speech. "I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," she said. 

With this public comment, Kim Kardashian entered the chat. 

"She totally approved that [song]," Kardashian said in the July issue of GQ.

"She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn't. I swear, my husband gets so much s**t for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved."

It's important to note here that Kim never said that Taylor approved every detail of the song's lyrics, but that simply a conversation happened where she knew the song "was coming out" and that Kanye took from the conversation that Taylor had given her seal of approval. 

Taylor's spokesperson went on to note that "Kanye West and Taylor only spoke once on the phone while she was on vacation with her family in January of 2016 and they have never spoken since. Taylor has never denied that conversation took place. It was on that phone call that Kanye West also asked her to release the song on her Twitter account, which she declined to do."

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In a July episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim set the stage for the leak, saying in one scene, "I feel like I've had it with people blatantly treating my husband a certain way and making him look a certain way, and I'm gonna say how I feel."

After the episode aired, Kim leaked the clip of the phone chat between Taylor and Kanye on Snapchat. In the audio, Kanye is heard saying the line "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex," which Taylor responds with "It's like a compliment." 

She went on to say "If people ask me about it, look, I think it would be great for me to be like, 'He called me and told me before it came out … Joke's on you, guys. We're fine.'"

In response, Swift immediately pointed to the fact that one of the most insulting lines that made the final song was not relayed to the singer. 

"Where is the video of Kanye telling me he was going to call me 'that bitch' in his song? It doesn't exist because it never happened. You don't get to control someone's emotional response to being called 'that bitch' in front of the entire world," she wrote on Instagram. 

Taylor's response in 2016. Image: Instagram/@taylorswift.

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"Of course, I wanted to like the song. I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot 'approve' a song you haven't heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination."

In the caption, she took aim at Kim, writing "That moment when Kanye West secretly records your phone call, then Kim posts it on the Internet."

Despite this, the overwhelming consensus online was that Taylor Swift was a snake, a snake which now covered every Instagram post made by the singer. 

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After a year hiatus, Taylor returned in August 2017 with her album, Reputation, which was themed around a snake. "I learned that disarming someone's petty bullying can be as simple as learning to laugh," Swift told Elle in 2019

"A few years ago, someone started an online hate campaign by calling me a snake on the internet," she said, referring to Kardashian. 

"It would be nice if we could get an apology from people who bully us but maybe all I'll ever get is the satisfaction of knowing I could survive it, and thrive in spite of it."

At the same time, Kim Kardashian said she was "over" her feud with Swift, saying on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen that "I feel like we've all moved on."

Clearly, we hadn't. 

In March 2020, the full phone call was leaked online. In the clip, Taylor could be heard cautioning Kanye against saying something "mean" about her, saying that she's glad the lyrics don't refer to her as "that stupid dumb bitch."  

He ended the call by saying that "I'm going to send you the song and send you the exact wording and everything about it, right? And then we could sit and talk through it," which Taylor alleged never happened. 

Listen to the episode of The Spill as the hosts dissect Taylor Swift's new interview. Post continues after podcast.


Kim Kardashian's response was one of befuddlement. "The video showed nothing new. We all knew that. I'm so confused right now," she immediately tweeted.

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A few days later, she tweeted a more considered response. 

"To be clear, the only issue I ever had around the situation was that Taylor lied through her publicist who stated that 'Kanye never called to ask for permission…' They clearly spoke so I let you all see that. Nobody ever denied the word 'bitch' was used without her permission," Kim stated.

This is true. Kim never claimed this. 

But Kim did say that that Taylor "totally approved" the song, which isn't what happened either. 

The damage was done and according to the internet, Taylor Swift had won. 

Whether it's Kim or Taylor's social media being flooded with snake emojis, each woman is known to spin their stories to suit their narrative. 

To varied degrees, both women have lied – and both women have told the truth. 

And each of their careers has rebounded from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows and back again.

“I’ve been raised up and down the flagpole of public opinion so many times in the last 20 years,” Taylor Swift told TIME.

“I’ve been given a tiara, then had it taken away." 

But based on Swift's history, a snake charm was a better fit all along. 

Feature image: Getty. 

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